The number of helicopter accidents in 2019 increased slightly compared to 2018 while the number of fatal accidents was unchanged, according to data released this week by the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST). Fatalities from those accidents decreased slightly.
However, the number of accidents declined sharply in the second half of 2019 compared to the earlier six month period. In 2019, there were 122 accidents, 24 fatals, and 51 fatalities, compared to 121 accidents, 24 fatals, and 55 fatalities in 2018. For the first six months of 2019, there were 69 accidents, 15 fatals, and 27 fatalities compared to 53 accidents, nine fatals, and 24 fatalities in the second six months.
The number of overall helicopter accidents has held remarkably steady since 2015, when 121 were recorded, dipping only slightly in 2016, when 108 were tallied. However, fatalities increased from 28 in 2015 to 55 in 2018. Using 2013 statistics as a baseline, a year in which there were 146 accidents, 30 fatal accidents, and 62 fatalities, 2019 accidents represented a 16 percent decrease.
USHST noted progress in both accident and fatal accident rate reduction. “Even though year-to-year data is static, long-term progress in accident reduction remains positive. Over the past two decades, the U.S. helicopter fatal accident rate has been cut in half, from 1.27 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours to 0.63. (based on a five-year rolling average),” the organization said.
Meanwhile, USHST is continuing work developing safety enhancements based on its analysis of accidents. Recent initiatives include publishing a white paper showing how UAS can supplement and support manned helicopters in high-risk operations and environments; releasing two new airmanship bulletins on the vortex ring state and on power available limitations; and obtaining FAASTeam commitments for 2020 workshops in Little Rock, Milwaukee, Memphis, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Baton Rouge, Denver, Houston, Columbia (South Carolina), Greensboro (North Carolina), Washington, D.C., and Portland (Oregon).